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In different sources, it is explained that the sidra of Bamidbar Sinai be read before the holiday of Shavuos. The Netziv, in his introduction to sefer Bamidbar, mentions the fact that Bamidbar is called חומש הפקודים, as we call it in English; The book of Numbers. The main theme of this parasha is the counting of the Jewish People (the Midrash says that because we are precious to G-d, we are counted).

However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (לקוטי שיחות - ד) explains that parashas Bamidbar serves as an preparation for Shavuos, e.g. Matan Torah (The Giving of the Torah). The Rebbe explains that by being counted, the importance of the Jewish people was revealed to them in a tangible manner. (This sichah is somewhat eludicated in this book).

I was wondering. Are there other commentators that explain 1) if, 2) why parashas Bamidbar serves as a preparation for receiving the Torah on Shavuos.

The more sources, the better the answer :).

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    If bechukosai needs to be two weeks before then by default Bamidbar is the week before
    – Chatzkel
    May 23, 2023 at 20:43
  • Yes, that I understand. I am looking for deeper meaning(s) behind the concept I've brought up.
    – Shmuel
    May 23, 2023 at 20:46

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There are several sources:

  1. Rav Moshe Feinstein (as brought down in Tallelei Oros on Bamidbar) - Counting inspires self-worth.

Rav Moshe brings similar to your first point (that it connects to the counting of the Jewish people) that people may question their ability in Torah study and adopt a defeatist attitude. They may say, "I'm a nobody, and even if I do toil in Torah I won't really achieve much!" This mindset will lead to them giving up and becoming lazy in their Torah pursuit. As such, we read Bamidbar specifically before Shavuos, which details the count, as it underlines how each and every Jew, whether young or old, is meaningful and counts!

Therefore:

כי כל אדם מישראל יש לו חשיבות וערך והריהו מן הכלל כולו. קריאה בפרשת זו יש בה משום חיזוק לאדם לקראת קבלת התורה

Because every person from Israel has an importance and worth and is different from the whole community. Reading this parsha is a chizuk for a person going into the acceptance of the Torah.

  1. Tosafos s.v. "Klalos" - Megillah 31b - It serves a functional purpose

אנו קורין במדבר סיני קודם עצרת כדי שלא להסמיך הקללות שבבחוקותי לעצרת

We read Parshas Bamidbar prior to Shavuos in order not to have the curses that are listed in Bechukosai before Shavuos.

  1. Chidah - it serves as a uniting force similar to that of Mattan Torah

He writes in Nachal Kedumim that "במדבר סיני" is the same gematriah (numerical value) as "בשלום" - in other words, from the day the Jewish people left Egypt they were in a fractious state. However, when they arrived at Sinai they came together and united as one - as it says in Shemos 19:2:

ויחן שם ישראל - And Israel camped there

Which Rashi famously notes:

כאיש אחד בלב אחד

Like one man with one heart

  1. Gemara Nedarim 55a - A desert is reminder to be humble - a crucial tenet for the acquisition of Torah

The Gemara writes:

מַאי דִּכְתִיב: ״וּמִמִּדְבָּר מַתָּנָה וּמִמַּתָּנָה נַחֲלִיאֵל וּמִנַּחֲלִיאֵל בָּמוֹת״? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: כֵּיוָן שֶׁעוֹשֶׂה אָדָם אֶת עַצְמוֹ כַּמִּדְבָּר, שֶׁהוּא מוּפְקָר לַכֹּל — תּוֹרָה נִיתְּנָה לוֹ בְּמַתָּנָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וּמִמִּדְבָּר מַתָּנָה״. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁנִּיתְּנָה לוֹ בְּמַתָּנָה — נְחָלוֹ אֵל, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וּמִמַּתָּנָה נַחֲלִיאֵל״. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁנְּחָלוֹ אֵל — עוֹלֶה לִגְדוּלָּה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וּמִנַּחֲלִיאֵל בָּמוֹת״. וְאִם הִגְבִּיהַּ עַצְמוֹ — הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַשְׁפִּילוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וּמִבָּמוֹת הַגַּיְא״, וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָּא שֶׁשּׁוֹקְעִין אוֹתוֹ בַּקַּרְקַע, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וְנִשְׁקָפָה עַל פְּנֵי הַיְשִׁימוֹן״. וְאִם חוֹזֵר בּוֹ — הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַגְבִּיהוֹ

What is the meaning of that which is written: “And from the wilderness Mattana and from Mattana Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel Bamot” (Bamidbar 21:18–19)? Rava said to him that it means: Once a person renders himself like a wilderness, deserted before all, the Torah is given to him as a gift [mattana], as it is stated: “And from the wilderness Mattana.” And once it is given to him as a gift, God bequeaths [naḥalo] it to him, as it is stated: “And from Mattana Nahaliel.” And once God bequeaths it to him, he rises to greatness, as it is stated: And from Nahaliel, Bamot, which are elevated places. And if he elevates himself and is arrogant about his Torah, the Holy One, Blessed be He, degrades him, as it is stated: “And from Bamot the valley” (Numbers 21:20). And not only is he degraded, but one lowers him into the ground, as it is stated: “And looking over [nishkafa] the face of the wasteland” (Numbers 21:20), like a threshold [iskopa] that is sunken into the ground. And if he reverses his arrogance and becomes humble, the Holy One, Blessed be He, elevates him

Thus, just a desert is devoid of life and is completely empty, if a person want to truly be ready to acquire Torah he also has to make himself "empty" - In other words, he has to become humble and then he will be more able to readily acquire the Torah. Hence we read parshas Bamidbar prior to Shavuos as a necessary preparation going into zman mattan toraseinu.

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    Wow, Dov! Fascinating sources. Thank you very much, that was exactly what I was looking for. Especially the quote from Rav Feinstein in טללי אורות.
    – Shmuel
    May 28, 2023 at 14:57
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    Maybe that explanation fits well with what is learned in Derech Eretz Zuta, that the Torah was given only after B'nei Yisrael were "one" as Rashi notes: sefaria.org/…
    – Shmuel
    May 28, 2023 at 15:00
  • could you maybe elaborate more on the Chida you quoted? He says that במדבר סיני and בשלום share the same gematria, so it is to teach us that the Jewish people were in a fractious state when leaving Mitzrayim, but one when they were at במדבר סיני. The famous comment of Rashi I understand, but this Chida is hard for me to get.
    – Shmuel
    May 28, 2023 at 16:50
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    במדבר סיני גימטריא בשלום כי מיום שיצאו ממצרים היו נוסעים בקטטה עד שבאו למדבר סיני נשלמו כלם יחד שנאמר ויחן שם ישראל - "Bamidbar Sinai" is the gematriah of "B'Shalom" ("in peace") because from the day they left Egypt they were travelling in a quarrelling/argumentative manner until they arrived at the Sinai desert where they all became complete together - " And Israel camped there..."
    – Dov
    May 28, 2023 at 16:54
  • I see, in line with Rashi's statement thus. TY!
    – Shmuel
    May 28, 2023 at 17:15

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